I wasn't sure how much more the crowd could take.

Some audience members grimaced. Others looked nauseated. Several held their hands over their ears -- even though they were wearing ear plugs.

It wasn't like just standing next to a roaring jet engine. It was like getting sucked into one.

It was, of course, My Bloody Valentine -- arguably the loudest rock band in the world. And the specific moment I'm describing occurred during the closing number of the band's show Friday at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.

The tune's title is "You Made Me Realise," but it's probably best described as sheer noise -- unbelievably brutal, mind-blowing noise. It's like a thunderclap that lasts for 10 minutes. It's more than just a sonic experience -- it's a fully encompassing physical one. And if it had lasted much longer, there might have been casualties.

Wow.

Thank goodness that the staff was handing out free ear plugs to everyone who walked into the venue. We needed them to protect our hearing from a show that will probably make Black Sabbath's concert on Monday at Shoreline Amphitheatre seem like a string quartet recital.

My Bloody Valentine came to San Francisco in support of the long-awaited "m b v," its first full-length studio album in more than two decades. Its previous release was 1991's "Loveless" -- an effort that is routinely (and deservedly) ranked among the finest albums of that decade.

"Loveless" factored heavily into the set list, with the group throttling the crowd with "When You Sleep," "Only Shallow" and other classics of the so-called "shoegazing" indie-rock genre.

The band also performed several numbers from "m v b," including "Only Tomorrow" and "Who Sees You," as well as offerings from its 1988 debut ("Isn't Anything") and its numerous EPs.

Yet what My Bloody Valentine played wasn't nearly as important as how the band played it. Each tune was a full-body experience, hitting the crowd with waves of fuzzy, distorted and astoundingly emotional notes and passages that left many feeling exhausted, disoriented and, ultimately, fulfilled.

The band members -- vocalist-guitarist-songwriter Kevin Shields, drummer Colm O Ciosoig, vocalist-guitarist Bilinda Butcher and bassist-keyboardist Debbie Googe -- certainly played the shoegazing role to perfection, exhibiting about as much personality onstage as a Chia Pet.

The visual effects came from a large overhead video screen, which pulsed with imagery that was nearly as indecipherable as the lyrics. The whole package was amazingly hypnotic, with the goal of wearing us down so the musicians could build us back up again. It's been a long time since I've been to a live show that felt this transformative. (The last time was probably when I saw My Bloody Valentine perform at the Coachella music festival in 2009.)

What happened on Friday night was, technically speaking, music. Yet, that term seems so inadequate to describe what really happened.

It was My Bloody Valentine. And it left fans breathless.

Follow Jim Harrington at Twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.